Saying Goodbye to Cutline
For years I’ve used a customized version of the Cutline theme to display my personal blog. In its day it was very stable and visually elegant, garnering lots of favorable comments on its appearance.
Unfortunately, the Cutline theme was sold years ago to an organization that did not invest in future-proofing it… I knew the clock was ticking on my continued use of this theme, and now the alarm has gone off… My site visitors have changed, and Cutline can’t adapt to their needs.
Thanks to Google Analytics, I know that increasing numbers of people read my blog posts from IOS devices. Cutline displays OK on iPad tablets, but it’s an eyestrain challenge on iPhones (even with a Retina display).
Now that 20% of my visitors access this blog from mobile devices, it’s time to switch to a more mobile-friendly WordPress child theme and framework.
Here’s a quick summary of what I’ve learned while trying to find a replacement WordPress theme — several hundred dollars and many hours later…
I’ve licensed and tried several framework-based themes that claim to be “responsive” — meaning, they promise to adapt gracefully to PC/Mac browser differences and mobile devices of many kinds:
As a long-time user of Thesis 1.8 (for a company website), I was hoping to move up to the new version of Thesis, which launched this October. Unfortunately, Thesis 2.0.x is still quite embryonic. While promising, it is poorly documented, too time-consuming for a non-developer to learn — someone for whom blogging is a hobby and not a way to earn a living.
The new version does not leverage my prior experience with the original Thesis framework; the pricing model for a hobbyist blogger with several sites is unattractive. There’s no streamlined way to upgrade a site or blog from earlier versions of Thesis to the new one.
I played around for half a day, watched several hours of tutorials, and decided Thesis is not ready for prime time, except for adventurous developers. Or people who will earn money helping others learn and adapt Thesis to their needs.
Unfortunately, my managed web hosting provider has notified me that our aging version of Thesis is causing performance problems, so we must upgrade our corporate website. This will force us to examine our website platform strategy, as moving up to the latest version of Thesis is not in the cards.
I licensed Headway’s framework about 6 months ago, and have poked away at it several times. Had I fallen in love with one of its child themes, I may have been willing to go through the learning hurdle.
But, like Thesis 2.0, there’s too much work to go from Headway’s blank canvas to an elegant theme, unless you’re a skilled developer who understands the implications of WordPress’ box model, PHP and CSS intricacies. I don’t have time to go that deep…
Last week I began experimenting with StudioPress. It proves to be my most practical option.
StudioPress & Eleven40
This blog is now managed using the Genesis Framework and StudioPress’ Eleven40 child theme. It adapts reasonably gracefully to mobile devices and tablets with smaller screens. There’s an active user-community support forum, albeit the questions and answers are quite technical.
While I might wish for more UI-level control over the styling, this is good enough. I truly wish it had been possible to adapt the Cutline styling to StudioPress, but that would have required more of an investment in time and/or money than I’m willing to make. So I’ve stuck with the Eleven40 child theme, with some modifications to the typography.
That said, Genesis’ lack of support for a custom.css stylesheet makes me worry about future rework when StudioPress updates the theme. My changes are “hard-coded” into the child theme’s stylesheet. This will no doubt bite me someday in the future.
So, many hours and several hundred dollars later, this intrepid do-it-yourselfer now has a blog that behaves gracefully on the mobile devices that most of my readers use.